If you’re into K-pop, 2024 is exciting as this means new comebacks, debuts, and music content. If South Korean music is foreign to you, perhaps you’ll dive into a new world after being introduced to some of my favorite artists and K-pop predictions for 2024.
These albums are eclectic, harmonious, well-produced, and the perfect amount of experimental. However, much of K-pop today is limited and not versatile. There is less focus on performance and more on fashion and simple choruses for dance challenges, not to mention the lack of feel-good bridges! Vocals and instrumentals of mainstream K-pop groups feel empty as companies continue to favor trends over innovative artistry.
2023 brought many K-pop releases that sounded watered down. Songs like “Sweet Venom” by ENHYPEN, “Fact Check” by NCT 127, and “Chasing That Feeling” by TOMORROW X TOGETHER were less complex, vocally diminished, and had a “Westernized” sound to them. These numbers lacked traditional K-pop elements as their repeated sections made them predictable and difficult to jam to. While not bad songs, they would better serve as b-sides and not title tracks. Youtuber and K-pop music critic Koko3op agrees: “The songs feel like a great idea that has not been finished.”
Still, these tracks are extremely popular on TikTok. ENHYPEN's dance challenge for “Sweet Venom” has thousands of re-uploads and millions of likes. These short videos are also made in collaboration with other K-pop artists – making the chorus and choreography of a song go viral.
From a marketing standpoint, this is a great way to promote a group and expose users to K-pop. Yet, to release a track lacking instrumental and vocal quality for a trend is a hard price to pay as new songs will eventually take over.
However, I will give credit where credit is due. ZEROBASEONE's title song, “In Bloom,” is nostalgic, upbeat, semi-vocally dynamic, and most importantly, refreshing. In comparison to “Chasing That Feeling,” this number effectively samples the sympathizer sound from “Take on Me” by a-ha. “In Bloom” is exactly what I would expect from a K-pop boy group — a fun, catchy dance track.
K-pop needs more songs like “In Bloom.” Am I biased because I desperately want the R&B, synth-pop, and techno-experimental genre back in K-pop? Maybe — but these were the types of tracks that introduced me to Korean music and got me hooked. I miss the quirkiness, the layered production, and the nostalgic songs that gave me literal goosebumps because they were so good! (See: Tracks like “Energetic” by Wanna One and “Dumb Dumb” by Red Velvet).
Despite my lack of appreciation for many releases in 2023, I hope 2024 will be a great year for South Korean pop music. The following predictions are fairly biased, but would help bring back listener excitement, artist versatility, and the traditional K-pop sound back to K-pop.
Debuting as a sub-group of Red Velvet in 2020 with their EP Monster, Irene and Seulgi need to bring back their groovy R&B sound to 2024. It’s likely that the sub-group will have a comeback in the early part of the year and will release a second EP filled with melodic vocals, bass-heavy instrumentals and suspenseful bridges. If you’re looking for skillful female artists and feel-good tracks, give this duo a listen.
Recommended song: “Diamond”
2. Girl’s Generation - Oh!GG Comeback
Oh! GG, which features five members from Girl’s Generation, released their single album Lil’ Touch back in 2018. As a sub-group, their songs are vocally centered and incorporate subdued instrumentation to showcase the member’s diverse ranges. Following their long break, the group will release a summer track and bring back their easy-to-listen-to-pop sound to 2024.
Recommended song: “Fermata”
3. HAECHAN Solo Debut
Haechan, a member of two K-pop groups, first debuted in 2016 with NCT DREAM’s single album Chewing Gum and NCT 127’s, self-titled album, NCT #127, respectively. Hachan is known for his high-tone voice, rhythmic dance abilities and charismatic persona. It would be impressive for him to make his solo debut and release a mixed-genre EP with R&B and indie-pop influences. In the meantime, check out his remake of “Good Person,” originally released in 2001 by Toy and Kim Hyun Joong.
Recommended song: “Good Person”
4. WONYOUNG Single
Recognized as an “It girl” among current K-pop artists, Wongyoung began her career in 2018 after competing in a music show where she secured a spot in IZ*ONE. In 2021, she became a member of IVE, a sextet known for their hits: “LOVE DIVE” and “After LIKE.” Based on Wongyoung’s popularity, she will debut as a solo act and release a catchy bubblegum-pop single — one to compliment her feminine and soft vocal aesthetic.
Recommended song: “Off the Record”
5. NewJeans Collaboration with Nickelodeon
While this prediction goes against my “traditional K-pop sound” theory, this girl group is the expectation. Debuting in 2022 with the EP New Jeans, this act perfectly combines instrumental minimalism, soft-polished vocals and a Y2K style to create a unified and laidback sound. Their easy-going vibe and heavy incorporation of English lyrics make them a great fit for a youthful soundtrack on a Nickelodeon feature.
Recommended song: “Cool With You”
Debuting in 2019 with the single album BIRTHDAY, Jeon Somi brings a mix of fresh, melodic and dance-pop sounds to K-pop. Her crisp singing compliments her playful rapping skills. Her voice, combined with that of legendary artist HyunA, would make a massive hit. Perhaps 2024 will unite them to create an energetic and flirtatious track like HyunA’s “Lip & Hip,” released in 2017.
7. STAYC Releases a Bop
STAYC, a 6-member girl group known for their teen-fresh concept, released their first single album, Star To A Young Culture, in 2020. In 2024, this act needs to bring back upbeat, catchy, and funky-pop-layered tracks to K-pop. STAYC’s massive hits like “ASAP” and “STEREOTYPE” will likely be used as blueprints to create another energetic bop.
Recommended song: “247”
While South Korea’s music wave will not be ending anytime soon, it’s important to question how K-pop will maintain its global success. Idol music — or strategically produced songs for picture-perfect artists, has always focused on visuality and genre versatility. Korean popular music stands out because it combines elements that the American industry does not. K-pop mixes English with Korean lyrics, relies on experimental yet melodic instrumentation, and makes use of diverse vocal ranges — often having artists sing, rap, and adlib to fit a song’s concept.
K-pop may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I am hopeful that 2024 will be a year in which South Korean idol music makes a big comeback by drawing in new and old audiences with stylized and musically compelling releases. My predictions are mostly wishful thinking but things that would bring K-pop back to its roots while setting the foundation for the next generation of idol music.